ICNL’s Global Forum 2015 opened Sunday with welcome videos from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama. ICNL’s President Douglas Rutzen opened the Forum and Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Director-General of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, presented welcome remarks on behalf of Sweden.
The UN Secretary-General thanked Global Forum participants for their crucial work and stated:
We live in times of unprecedented wealth and possibilities, but also of deep inequalities, transnational threats, conflict, turmoil, and intolerance. ICNL believes rightfully in the power of civil society and global citizenship to overcome these problems and to help shape our common future.
President Obama observed:
Throughout history, progress has been propelled by citizens coming together to insist that a better life is possible. Yet, in too many countries today, fundamental freedoms like freedom of association and freedom of speech are under attack. So your work in this Forum is more important than ever…. [S]trong, successful countries need strong, successful civil societies.
Director-General Petri Gornitzka spoke of the timeliness of the Global Forum and stated that Sweden has made civic space a key priority:
Civic space is important because civil society is central to poverty reduction, democratic development, and respect for human rights. Therefore, civil society must be respected as development actors in their own right.
Mr. Rutzen concluded:
There are few times in history when issues of development, democracy, and destiny converge, but this is one of those times. Together we will meet this challenge. For we come from 80 countries. We work for different sectors. And we share a common vision – a world in which people can work together to improve their everyday lives.
Follow the Global Forum with the Twitter hashtag #ICNLforum2015. Additional information about the Global Forum is available here